Thomas Cook Airlines is to introduce the UK’s only direct service to the South African city of Cape Town outside of London’s Heathrow Airport. The leisure carrier will launch a three times weekly winter seasonal service from London’s Gatwick Airport from December 15, 2016 to March 20, 2017 using its refurbished fleet of Airbus A330s.
The new flight will bring additional capacity into a market now controlled by British Airways after Virgin Atlantic Airways ended its own non-stop flights earlier this year. Sabre data shows an annual O&D demand of over 375,000 two-way passengers between the UK and Cape Town (around 1,030 passengers per day).
Last year around half of the passengers flying on the up to twice daily British Airways and seasonal winter daily flight of Virgin Atlantic Airways from London Heathrow were local passengers with behind and beyond connections at the UK hub accounting for almost 48 per cent of the demand and playing an important role in supporting the direct routes.
Thomas Cook will be solely looking at the point-to-point demand but will have its own Inclusive Tour packages to help fill its aircraft and make the route sustainable. It will be the first carrier to introduce flights to Cape Town from outside of London Heathrow since flyglobespan offered links to the South African city from Manchester for one winter season in the 2000s (from November 2006 to April 2007).
The expansion into South Africa builds upon a recent growth of its long-haul network with popular links from London Gatwick to Cancun, Cuba and Goa and new services from Manchester to New York and Miami this year, and to Los Angeles and Boston next year. However, this South African market is much more seasonal in terms of demand than many of the others it serves.
“Cape Town really is a ‘WOW!’ destination for our customers,” said Christoph Debus, Chief Airlines and Hotels Officer for Thomas Cook. “Our seat-only service is proving hugely popular as customers become aware that they can get the great Thomas Cook quality to some amazing long haul destinations.”
“With £100 million invested in our fleet and new cabin interiors, we’re flying more customers to better destinations on better aircraft and making long haul destinations accessible to everyone,” he added.
One of UK Trade & Investment’s high-growth markets, South Africa is now part of the rapidly-developing BRICS markets along with Brazil, Russia, India and China and viewed as an increasingly sophisticated and lucrative market for business and tourism development, assisted by the long-standing colonial ties between the countries. The UK is one of South Africa’s principal trading partners with annual two way business worth in excess of £7 billion a year.